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New Plant Species Discovered in the Philippines | Described and Published in 2020

Let us look at the novel plant species described and published in 2020 by researchers from the #NationalMuseumPH. These discoveries are the result of collaborations with our partner institutions and organizations before the lockdown, engaging them in fieldwork activities across the remaining forests of our country.

Dilochia deleoniae Tandang & Galindon, a new orchid species, was described from Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary. The new species is only the third species of that genus in the Philippines and the 11th species in the world. The specific epithet is named in honor of Josefina De Leon for her contribution, as former head of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of DENR, to the protection of wildlife resources in the Philippines.

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Photo by John Michael Galindon

Type materials of these new discoveries are stored and added to the growing collections of plants deposited in the Philippine National Herbarium, which is part of the National Museum of the Philippines.

Timonius sulitii Merr. and Quisumbing ex J.G. Chavez and Tandang, is a new plant species from the coffee family, Rubiaceae. The species was now formally published, initially named by Elmer D. Merrill and Eduardo A. Quisumbing in the herbarium label of the type specimen but remained unpublished. It was named after Mamerto D. Sulit who collected the specimens during the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Herbarium (PNH) after the World War II. It is only known from its type locality in Mount Calbiga, Eastern Samar.

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Illustration by Jason G. Chavez (from Chavez et al., 2020)

These discoveries highlight the importance of protecting the remaining forest habitats in the Philippines and the sustained field research to document the unique flora of our country. 

Two species of helmet or jewel orchid was also published. First was the Corybas circinatus Tandang & R. Bustam., a new species endemic to the ultramafic habitats in the island of Palawan. The specific epithet ‘circinatus’ is the perfect passive participle of the Latin verb ‘circinare’ (to make round), meaning rounded, in reference to the highly distinctive strongly incurved dorsal sepal. It is classified as endangered due to the threat of declining populations as a result of anthropogenic activities.

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Photo by Danilo N. Tandang

We are sure you would like to learn more about these newly discovered jewels in the forests! But a word of caution to the avid gardeners that increased during the lockdown - fondly referred to as plantitos and plantitas - please do not encourage your plant suppliers or do not hunt for these for your hobby.

Second was the Corybas boholensis Tandang, R. Bustam., T. Reyes Jr. & S.P. Lyon, a critically endangered jewel orchid confined in the forest over limestone habitats in the island of Bohol. Species of Corybas are unique from other known orchid species, typically with a small, single leaf and single flower with hood-like dorsal sepal, earning them a nickname ‘helmet orchids’. They are miniscule and hidden among forest litters, making them very hard to find.

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Photo by John Rey C. Callado

Poaching them in certain areas will lead to habitat destruction. Click each of the fascinating photos below and help us preserve these endemic species.

Three species of begonia were also described, all in the island of Palawan. First was Begonia truncatifolia R. Bustam., Tandang, Pranada & Y.P. Ang which was discovered in the northern town of San Vicente and thrives in shaded riparian forest habitat on exposed limestone rocks. The specific epithet ‘truncatifolia’ is derived from the truncated upper portion of the leaves.

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Photo by Ang Yu Pin (

Second was the Begonia beijnenii Y.P. Ang, Tandang, Rubite & R. Bustam. discovered from an unexplored region of Port Barton in San Vicente, Palawan. This species is named after conservationist and biologist Jonah van Beijnen, who first discovered and reported about the species, and also in acknowledgement for his conservation efforts across Palawan; in particular his advocacy to raise The Cleopatra’s needle Mountain Range to protected area status.

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Photo by William cabanillas (

Third was the Begonia cabanillasii Y.P. Ang, Tandang, J. Agcaoili & R. Bustam. currently known only from El Nido, Palawan. The specific epithet is named after William Cabanillas in acknowledgement of his continuous effort and advocacy towards discovery, protection and conservation of biodiversity resources in the Philippines. The Philippines is considered one of the centers of Begonia species diversity in the world and the discovery of these species brings the total to 141 species currently known in the country.

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Photo by Ang Yu Pin ( 

Text by John Michael Galindon, Botany and National Herbarium Division

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

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